Bonnie Lucchese, former chamber manager and beloved East County resident, passed away on Dec. 2 following an illness. She was 73.
“She was a downtown icon, the absolute heart of the chamber,” said Paula Wong, former administrative assistant with the chamber. “She was a small-town girl herself, so she instinctively understood the makings of a community like Brentwood and how to make it successful. The chamber was very small when she came and she helped to build it into what it is today.”
Jilda Fairhurst, event coordinator for the Brentwood Chamber of Commerce, was hired by Bonnie in the early 2000s and for seven years they – along with Wong – organized the chamber’s popular events such as Hometown Halloween and CornFest, as well as the countless mixers and social gatherings.
“We were a little family,” said Fairhurst. “We laughed and cried and celebrated together every single day. We worked so closely that we often finished each other’s sentences. It’s very hard to believe she is gone.
“What was great was that as a trio we all cared deeply, deeply about the chamber, and under Bonnie’s leadership it did truly thrive.”
But Bonnie was more than the power behind the chamber. In her younger years she was a sports enthusiast who enjoyed waterskiing and tennis, and in her 50s ran a marathon. And always, she was an avid reader.
“I will miss so many things about Bonnie,” said Fairhurst. “But one of the big things will be her comments on current events. Bonnie read the paper every day, and when she got to work we would discuss it. She was very well educated and the most well-read person I’ve ever known. She was a voracious reader.”
Born in Tuscola, Ill., Bonnie graduated from the University of Oregon and moved around the country throughout the years with her husband, but eventually came back to East County in 1985 and settled in Bethel Island.
For all her accomplishments, hard work and community cargiving, her greatest gift, according to son Darin Nelms, was her love for her family. “Very simply, she was the greatest mother that ever lived,” said Nelms. “She stood behind me no matter what, even when I was a handful – and I was. She was straightforward and matter-of-fact, never over emotional. She just told it like it was. But she was the most loving person I ever knew. I will miss her: I miss her already. It’s a hard loss.”
Funeral services were private, but a memorial is planned for early 2012.